We were hugely, hugely impressed with Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie in the Lord’s Test. We don’t care what the pitch was like – just imagine coming out to bat after you’ve been so comprehensively trampled for three days. Imagine what would have happened to England in the same situation.
Beaten men play crap cricket. These pair summoned some almighty resolve to do what they did. Playing one beautiful shot is easy – that’s a one-off. Playing virtually no stupid shots for an entire day is quite another. You can’t fluke that. That is near-superhuman concentration.
Would Andrew Flintoff have dispatched them? Maybe, but there’s no way of knowing, so let’s not go down that road – it looks busy down there, for one thing. It seems fairly certain that he’ll return now though and that IS a big deal. It’s like real cricket’s back.
If Flintoff does replace Collingwood, we’ve some good news for those who are worried about a potentially flimsy middle order. Someone’s had a word with Fred and given him some top quality coaching which should sort out his batting once and for all.
In his own words: “I’ve been seeing the ball well all season, but my body and my hands aren’t going in the right places.”
Diagnosing the problem’s 80 percent of the battle.6 Appeals
That was as good as a certainty, wasn’t it?
Kevin Pietersen likes a big match. He must be driven by stomach butterflies or something. We’re not quite sure how that would work, because even our rudimentary scientific knowledge tells us that there aren’t actually butterflies in there.
He went out to bat in the middle of England losing three wickets in as many overs. He was playing a Test against the country of his birth for the first time. He scores a remorseless hundred.
We particularly like the way he’s got no time at all for the bowling of Paul Harris. Yes, it’s tactical, but Pietersen tries to hit him out of the attack with a malicious glee.
Ian Bell did himself no end of good today as well. We wonder whether he read about Graham Thorpe this morning, because he adopted that very approach: 15 minutes of heart-in-mouth, counter-punching near-calamity leading to easy accumulation.
England v South Africa first Test at Lord’s, day one
England 309-3 (Kevin Pietersen 104 not out, Ian Bell 75 not out, Alastair Cook 60)
Realistically, there was only one story from today’s play. We’re talking of course of Jacques Kallis’s new ‘comfortable’ appearance.
Now we like a fat cricketer as much as the next man – maybe even more than the next man – but we don’t appreciate Jacques Kallis’s late-to-the-party attempts.
Our idea of a fat cricketer is someone who truly devotes himself to the role. Ian Austin: there was a fat cricketer with true natural ability. He didn’t faff around with a slight physique for years. He got straight in there. He was fat from the off.
Mark Cosgrove’s another cricketer with gluttony and sloth in his big, big bones. He’s the kind of man who won’t even pay lip service to a fitness regime, because his lips are permanently occupied with cream cakes. Mark Cosgrove is actively working on gaining more weight. This is our kind of hero: one you can believe in and also laugh at when they try to do up their shoelaces.
Jacques Kallis is just a wannabe. Mark Boucher too.
We’ve just realised we’ve already written about fat South Africans, but no matter – it’s not something anyone’s ever likely to get tired of.6 Appeals
Not at Lord’s, obviously. That’ll be a rain-affected draw like usual. England will win the series though.
Why? Because it’s tricky playing in England. England supporters don’t realise this sometimes, but it is. Conditions are as tricky and alien to most nations’ players as Sri Lankan or Indian conditions are to England’s.
Pitches are greener, the ball swings more and, unlike some countries, England has its own balls…
The following South African players have never played a Test in England: Hashim Amla, Ashwell Prince, A B de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris and Dale Steyn. That’s over half of their team. Some of them have played county cricket or league cricket, but still – they’ll have to learn fast.
Of the others, most have struggled a bit over here. Neil McKenzie’s career batting average drops from 38.39 to 31.66 in England, although those innings were during his first, rubbish career, so maybe we should ignore that.
Jacques Kallis averages 37.07 in England versus 57.14 overall. That’s a bigger gap than the one in his skull.
Mark Boucher averages three less with the bat in England, Makhaya Ntini averages eight more with the ball. Graeme Smith‘s English record is as huge as his torso, but after scoring 600-and-odd runs in his first three innings, his subsequent record is as conspicuously undersized as his weirdly ill-proportioned mouth.
These statistics are a whole load of nothing really, but it gives an idea of what the South Africans are up against. They’re not going to waltz in and turn England over as some people seem to think. England is a foreign land to some.
We’ve deliberately set this to publish at 11.20am, so hopefully England will have lost six wickets and we’ll look like the idiot we most definitely are. Either that or it’ll be raining. We predict that the Lord’s drainage system will be the true winner in this first Test.6 Appeals
This is a guide to a few of the newer South African players. You shouldn’t cut it out, nor should you keep it. You should read it once, sigh and think to yourself: ‘I already knew all that. I remember when this site was good.’
Paul Harris is a South African spin bowler. Don’t let his competent record fool you. He’s still a South African spin bowler.
Like all South African spin bowlers, he’s 29 already, even though he’s ‘new’.
You sort of remember him from when England toured South Africa in 2004, when his beard was all the more lovable for the short periods of time it was inside a batting helmet. It wasn’t a great series for Amla.
Unfortunately Hashim Amla has rather pushed on. In his last ten Tests – against New Zealand, West Indies, Bangladesh and India – he’s bearded three hundreds and averaged 58.8. It’s customary at these times to remove any scores against Bangladesh, so let’s do that.
Now he averages 64.4.
Hopefully this form won’t last and having hit a hundred in each of South Africa’s warm-up matches, Amla’s clearly frittering away his reservoir of runs at the wrong time. The hirsute fool!
Think James Anderson with another 5mph of pace and no bad days.
Morne Morkel’s one we’re looking forward to seeing. He’s fast and ludicrously oversized. Not ludicrously oversized in a lanky Steve Harmison way, more in an undue pressure on the pituitary gland kind of way.10 Appeals
Flex your typing fingers. Get them good and supple. You have quite simply GOT to have some comments about this quote from Andre Nel:
“When the fans go hard and abuse you, I love that.”
That’s a direct quote from a BBC interview. Apparently he said it ‘with a glint in his eye’.11 Appeals
That’s ‘The Wisden Cricketer’ to you.
We won’t link to every piece of ours that appears on their blog, but we thought that today’s was ‘all right’ – and that’s a real high water mark for us.6 Appeals
“I’ve got a wife and child now and don’t have much time to worry about toilet seats and taping bats to the ceiling.” – Neil McKenzie
You know what it’s like when you’re younger and you’re free to do as you please, you can merrily worry about toilet seats to your heart’s content.
You’re in the mood for taping a bat to the ceiling? You damn well tape a bat to the ceiling. ‘There it is. There’s my bat. Taped to the ceiling. Job done. That is a beautiful piece of handiwork.’
It would ruin the beauty of the quote if we gave you the background, suffice to say that Neil McKenzie used to be a bit mental and we’ve warmed to him an extraordinary amount as a consequence.4 Appeals
India is the home of spin bowling, so we always want to see EXTREME TRIAL BY SPIN whenever there’s a Test over there.
There’s some batsman who’s supposed to be good against spin bowling. Yeah? How will he fare in an EXTREME TRIAL BY SPIN?
Harbhajan Singh opened the bowling for India today, hinting that South Africa’s batsmen were to face an EXTREME TRIAL BY SPIN. South Africa pretty much failed their EXTREME TRIAL BY SPIN, getting bowled out for 121.
You might think you’re all right against spin, but only the finest can withstand a true EXTREME TRIAL BY SPIN.9 Appeals
We only ask because if they get good at it and develop a taste for it, they’re touring England in the summer. England’s batting line-up is currently supporting the entire sports psychology higher education programme in this country.
South African coach, Mickey Arthur, says that Steyn, Ntini and Morkel are going to persist in trying to keep India’s batsmen out of their comfort zones.
India have traditionally used a comfort zone to relax their players prior to every Test match. It’s a certain section of their hotel where the carpets have all been replaced by duvets and the players are offered a selection of velour tracksuits or pyjamas.
Steyn, Ntini and Morkel have hit upon a number of tactics to keep the Indian batsmen out of this haven. Morne Morkel has managed to get hold of a few rolls of police tape, which he’s going to put across the door as if there’s been some sort of crime within.
Makhaya Ntini is going to try and lure the Indians elsewhere by phoning them pretending to be their agents. He’s going to tell them that there’s a special IPL ‘double your money’ competition for all the players involved and all they have to do is be the first to complete a treasure hunt that he himself has put in place.
Finally and most deviously, Dale Steyn has managed to get a job on the front desk of India’s team hotel. Whenever anyone asks him the whereabouts of the comfort zone, he’s instead going to direct them towards the ‘misery zone’ where everyone has to queue up to watch various mobile phone adverts, before a dedicated professional has some one-to-one time explaining what each product says about its owner.4 Appeals